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Indianapolis TV Station Buys CW Affiliation After Losing CBS to Tribune

Indianapolis’ WISH-TV took a hit in August with the loss of its longtime CBS affiliation agreement to Tribune-owned rival WTTV-TV amid hardball renewal negotiations with the Eye network.

Now WISH has had to take the step of buying the rights to a CW affiliation from the same station that snatched away its CBS deal.

WTTV will switch from CW to CBS programming on Jan. 1. WTTV had planned to move CW’s programing to its digital subchannel, until the sale to WISH transpired.

The move is better for CW, which is on a roll with buzzy new shows such as “The Flash” (pictured), as WISH has strong coverage in the nation’s 26th largest market. WISH is owned by Media General, which just completed a merger with the Lin TV station group. The loss of CBS affiliation in Indianapolis, an NFL market, forced a revise of the merger pricetag due to the expected revenue hit at WISH.

The CW sale is a score for Tribune, as the sale money is gravy on top of the station’s improved economic prospects in moving to CBS, which will bring Indianapolis Colts games to WTTV.

The shuffle in Indianapolis was closely watched by Wall Street as a sign of growing tensions between networks and station affiliates. Networks want affils to help pay for highly rated programming by forking over a big percentage of retransmission consent revenues. Tribune and other groups have been bulking up in an effort to increase their clout in carriage negotiations with network partners as well as MVPDs.

Tribune remains the CW’s largest affiliate group outside of CBS, which jointly owns the network with Warner Bros. Affiliation deals for Tribune’s 13 CW affils are up at the end of 2016, so it is believed that WISH bought out the final two years on Tribune’s existing contract for Indianapolis.

“We are pleased to have reached this agreement, which is financially accretive to Tribune Media and good for the CW network with whom we remain a strong partner,” said Tribune Media prexy-CEO Peter Liguori.

Media General said Monday that in addition to the deal for WISH, it has set long-term CW affiliation renewals for its stations in 16 markets, including Albuquerque, N.M. and Buffalo, N.Y. The pact also calls for Media General to launch CW on digital subchannels in two smaller markets: Springfield/Holyoke, Mass., and Hattiesburg/Laurel, Miss.

“The CW has been a longstanding and valued partner for many years and we are pleased to continue building upon our relationship,” said Media General prexy-CEO Vincent Sadusky.

Separately, Tribune Media on Monday announced the sale of the 60-acre property in Baltimore that houses the printing facility for the Baltimore Sun, the daily newspaper that was part of Tribune prior to the split of the company’s TV and publishing assets earlier this year. Tribune Media is expected to net $30 million from the $46.5 million sale to an undisclosed buyer.

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